Terminal Failure

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I feel I just have to get this down after the massive holdup at Heathrow over the bank holiday weekend and the attitude of the people involved. I just couldn’t believe it!

  • There was a problem and a vast number of flights were delayed. As always the fault – or rather the blame – went to the Computer. And once the all-powerful computer system was off there was nothing they could do about it. They couldn’t let the passengers, the tired passengers who’d already endured a long flight, disembark because the computer system wouldn’t disgorge their details. They couldn’t let the aircraft waiting on the tarmac take off – the computers were down.  Now I’m not a computer expert, but surely if the main system and the back-up both failed, then what you do is go back to the old fashioned way – pencil and paper and people shouting out names from a list. Perhaps it’s like Scorton village shop when the till wasn’t working and the only people that could add up bills and give change accurately were those over 50 who had never become dependent on the computer.
  • What really bothers me though, is the sheep-like attitude of the customers; they endure indefinite delays, lack of information and a totally uncaring attitude towards the public. Yet no-one seemed even mildly surprised at the treatment they got. You expect this if you travel by air especially if you use British Airways. Why were the punters not storming the check-in desks, demanding to see the person in charge, making a fuss and demanding redress? Are we really so feeble that we allow the airlines to treat us like sheep? Sorry, scrap that last bit, sheep would get better treatment; RSPCA, Animal Rights and other organisations would see a sheep had food and water and somewhere to bed down.
  • Then the chairman of British Airways boasts that he is not going to resign over the shambles. Resign? It shouldn’t be a question of resign or not resign; it should be whether or not he will be sacked! Personally I think he should.
  • Further to paragraph 2: what were the repercussions to this massive cock-up? Did the shares in B.A. go through he floor? I doubt it. Did the major holiday firms and the business travellers cancel their contracts with B.A. and refuse to use Heathrow or Gatwick again? I doubt it. Did even the ordinary airline travellers who fly to holiday destinations in sunny climes make sure they never travel with this airline in future? I don’t think so. We are too forgiving – or do I mean too spineless?
  • A final grim thought: if the problem had been a bomb – or even just a false report of a bomb – would Heathrow and Gatwick have reacted any more efficiently? I doubt it. So obviously the message this sends to any would-be terrorists: don’t bother with bombs and bullets, target the IT systems, it’s less hassle and more disruptive!

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If you have to fly, this is the way to do it!

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Blogging 101 – Lost & Found

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Lost & Found

 “You can sort through the Lost Property,” they told me. It had to be better than punching tickets on a draughty platform or dealing with crowds of rowdy football supporters. So here I am with a huge container of lost property. What am I supposed to do with all this?

     “Start small, “said Jenny, “Take out any small items that are worth say, less than a fiver and put them in this bin – she indicated a large black container. They end up in landfill. Then sort the rest into…let’s see… IT stuff, reading matter, clothes, and…er miscellaneous.”

     “Er…miscellaneous?”

     “Miscellaneous, can be fun. We’ve had some odd things in there. We once had a piece of Brie in a carrier bag. Only found out when it started to stink the place out.”

     The job was hardly onerous. After a while it became boring. The things people leave on trains are much the same the world over. Glasses, mobile phones, books and magazines, small items of clothing, gloves or scarves or hats – Jenny claimed she once found a suspender belt and a pair of open crotch panties, but I think she was having me on.

     Halfway through the morning I found the painting. It was quite small and wrapped up in a jiffy bag and brown paper. I could feel the frame through the wrapping and couldn’t resist opening the parcel. It was disappointing. Just a picture like a kid might do of people walking around. It looked as if they were going to work in a mill or somewhere. It didn’t look very good; the figures were more like matchsticks. Surely this was one of the worthless items to be consigned to landfill.

     When Jenny called me over for our coffee break I mentioned the picture. “I put it to go for landfill,” I said, “It was rubbish.”

     Jenny nearly went berserk. She dashed to the discard bin, pulled out the picture and held it up.

     “Thank goodness it hasn’t been sent to landfill,” she said, “Can’t you see how valuable it is?

     “No. It just looks like some kid’s painting that his parents framed. Can’t think why.”

    “Don’t you know anything about painting? Don’t you watch the news?”

    “Welll…er…no,” I admitted.

     “This is a genuine Lowry, stolen last week. It’s been in all the papers and on the telly. They’ve even offered a reward.”

ESME

 

Writing 101 – Place

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Place

The bus journey to school was a time of transition for me. I got on at the stop immediately opposite our house. (we referred to it as “our stop”) and I could feel a subtle change as the bus got nearer to Manchester, the buildings were bigger and closer together and once we got to Piccadilly it was definitely a City rather than a Town or Suburb. The large green square of Piccadilly Gardens was very different from the tiny parks near home, small enclosed space with a few seats, some flowerbeds and a few children’s’ swings.

At Piccadilly I changed buses from the smooth quiet trolley bus to what we called a “petrol” bus, a different vehicle altogether. I felt as though I were moving into a different sphere, encountering different people with new ways of thinking and even different speech patterns. My friends were divided into those I knew at home and those I met at school. There was practically no overlap. At school we were expected to use something nearer to what was called “received pronunciation” and I remember my cousin being reprimanded for enquiring about a “buzz pass” when what she should have asked for was a “bas paas”. The rules about behaviour were stricter than at home. No eating in the street, school uniform – with a particularly hideous form of headgear – to be worn at all times when travelling to and from school and such matters as giving up your seat to an older person on the bus was taken for granted – they didn’t even need to have a specific rule about it.

The journey home was somehow different. For one thing once a week, most Mondays when it was her day off my mother would meet me where I changed buses in Piccadilly and we’d go round the shops, usually no more than window shopping and then have tea in Lewis’s.

On other days I’d sometimes do my homework on the bus. The trolley bus was the best one for this; it was smooth and fairly quiet, perfect for reading a set book or learning something by heart. In fact on one occasion I get so absorbed in the book I was reading that I missed my stop and had to walk back from the next stop.

Notes:
I’m not sure if this is really the sort of thing wanted ie a background/setting/place for a story 

 

 

 

 

 

Lies, Damn Lies and …Statistics

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This is certainly true when people come to talking about cycling. They measure cycling by “trips”. Now, what on earth is a trip? Apparently it’s a calculation of how many times you get on and off your bike – as simple as that. If I ride round the park starting from home, coming back to home and not stopping en route, that equals one trip. If I ride to the post office, stop to post a letter, ride on to the supermarket and stop to shop, then ride home – that is not one but three trips. Home to Post Office, Post Office to supermarket, supermarket to home. The total mileage might be considerably less than I did going to the park but for the purposes of statistics I have done 3 times as as much! How’s that for massaging the figures!

To take a more extreme example: The official record for a non-stop end-to-end (Land’s End to John O’Groats) is 44 hours 4 minutes on a conventional bike and 41 hours 4 minutes on a recumbent tricycle. Both these did the journey without a break, so I assume their epic rides count as single trips!

When the government talk about increasing cycling they measure it in number of “trips” per cyclist. Much better to look at distance, For example in September last year I rode a total of 300 miles; this year I did 250. (I’m getting old, you see.) But there are all sorts of other things – maybe I went on a (non-cycling) holiday for a couple of weeeks, maybe I was ill and didn’t get out on my trike as much as usual, maybe all sorts of other things affected the number of miles I rode.

Another way statistics are so often skewed is the confusion between “frequent” and “regular”. A frequent worshipper attends church every Sunday; a regular attender could be someone who never misses Christmas Day or Easter Sunday. Spot the difference?

You also find newspaper headlines that make things seem worse than they are. Here is an example from the Lancashire Evening Post:
ONE cyclist every day is killed or injured by motorists on Lancashire roads, shock new figures reveal.
Reading this, you might be forgiven for thinking “one cyclist a day! Wow! Does that mean 365 in a year?”

In fact when we look at the figures, things don’t seem so drastic. “KILLED OR INJURED” doesn’t even specify seriously injured, so in these stats, a cyclist lying dead at the roadside is counted alongside one who falls off his bike and bruises his knee and rides away otherwise unscathed.

I don’t know what is the best way to present cycling statistics. Should we talk about numbers of people riding bikes? Should this include the person with a bike in their garage that gets used perhaps twice a year when the weather is good and the grandchildren have come to visit? If we try to estimate distances ridden that’s a whole new problem. Very few, even among the keen cyclists keep a meticulous record of distances ridden. (But it you once get hooked on taking readings from a cycle computer it can be addictive. I’ve been there.)

What to Take

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Always a problem, at least for me. Even if I’m only going away for a couple of days, even just for an afternoon I can never decide what things are essential. Will I really need an umbrella? I’m going by car or bus and when I get there I’ll be inside, so an umbrella is surely a pointless extra ? Can I go in a cardigan? It might turn chilly better take a coat, even if lugging the wretched thing around all day is s pain.

When i’m on a bike or a trike I always have pannier. I know cyclists who take a minute seatpack and stuff their sandwiches into their back pocket. That way of doing things isn’t for me. I take a pannier – I mean I might suddenly see something I want to buy. I don’t usually buy a new dress or a posh hat on impulse but there have been times when I’ve spotted something in a shop window and thought “that’s just what we need”. Usually it’s something very mundane, a scrubbing brush or a jar of jam. something that’s been on my shopping list for the last three weeks but never actually got purchased. The way I look at it having space carrying capacity is always useful.

Holiday packing now seems to include so much IT equipment. I can remember when all you took on holiday was yourself and some clothes – perhaps a bucket and spade if you were taking the kids to the seaside. Now it’s mobile phones + charger, a laptop if you use one or a smartphone (I prefer my dumb phone, thanks very much. I just want to make and receive phone calls and make and receive text messages.) a tablet or an i-pod or i-pad – and of course all these gadgets need their own chargers.

At one time places to stay offered a bed to sleep in, a kettle in your room to make tea or coffee and sometimes – nearly always now – “en-suite” facilities. Don’t get me wrong I prefer my own bathroom rather than sharing with other guests. The facilities now include internet access and WiFi. So you can go on holiday and spend most of you time sitting in your room surfing the internet, playing computer games or talking to your friends on your mobile phone. None of these are bad things – I indulge in most of them at one time or another, but they are things you can do from the comfort of your home, so why go on holiday?

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The North-South Divide

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North South

North South

Is there such a thing? You bet there is! Some of the differences are slight but they are there. Speech patterns for instance. Someone brought up in Lancashire and studying in Yorkshire would,  you’d think, keep the same basic accent even after emigrating to the South of England. Not so. My son now talks like a southerner. He uses the long ‘a’ sound in words like “bath” and “glass” and his children knowing no other usage will follow suit and no doubt think of their gran as “talking funny.”

At one time we lived in Wales and at different times two of our children worked in Scotland. I didn’t develop a Welsh intonation, though it did take me some time to appreciate the local accent. When we first went to South Wales we asked directions from a local man.  He said something in reply , though it sounded more like singing at us. We smiled and thanked him. Then my husband and I looked at each other “What did he say?” We hadn’t a clue.

I noticed too that people seem to talk faster in the south. I don’t know whether it is stress, the pressure of work or just an age thing, but my grandchildren seem to talk about one and a half times as fast as I do. Can we blame it on modern technology? All the i-phones, i-pads, i-pods, lap-tops and tablets seem to devalue the spoken word. I mean why speak to your friend  if you can send him an email or a text, even if he is sitting at the next desk?

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ESME

Rolling down to Rio

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Rudyard Kipling wrote

“I’ve never sailed the Amazon,
I’ve never reached Brazil;
But the Don and Magdalena,
They can go there when they will!

Yes, weekly from Southampton,
Great steamers, white and gold,
Go rolling down to Rio
Roll down—roll down to Rio!)
And I’d like to roll to Rio.
Some day before I’m old!”

The image of a small boy contemplating things he would like to do is somehow poignant. It makes me think of all the  things I’d like to do  “And I s’pose I never will” .

Here is my version:

I’ve never sailed the Amazon,
I’ve never reached Brazil;
But football fans from England
Will go there, yes, they will!

No longer from Southampton,
Great steamers, white and gold,
Go rolling down to Rio
(Roll down—roll down to Rio!)
And I’d love to roll to Rio
Some day – I’m not too old!

I’d like to go to Rio
If I could go by sea
A cramped and noisy jumbo jet
Does not appeal to me.

I want to roll to Rio
On a liner sleek and clean
With waves to watch and days to pass
Alas – it’s but a dream.

I’ve never seen a Jaguar,
Except the motor car
And as for armadillos –
I don’t know what they are.

But still I think of Rio
As a place I’d like to go
Roll down, roll down to Rio
I’d love to roll to Rio
If I could roll real slow.